I am off on a round the world flight, across primarily Europe and United States. I will be heading to Paris, London, Barcelona, Santorini, New York and Los Angeles for a whirlwind trip. The first leg of the journey has me flying on the new Qatar Airways A380 First Class from Sydney to Doha (Qatar only recently upgraded the route to the Airbus A380). Post a lovely time in the Qantas First Class Lounge, I find myself on-board the Qatar Airways A380 and so my journey begins.
Unlike the other airlines I have travelled on, the First Class cabin is on the upper deck of the A380 aircraft. The cabin is configured with eight suites, which is more exclusive than most other carriers. All suites have direct aisle access (1, 2, 1 style configuration) with the four window seats being perfect for solo travellers while the four seats in the middle are great for couples.
The suites are beautiful with luxury finishes but with an understated tone which isn’t quite the bling of the Emirates suites. The cabin has a mix of purple, wood, beige leather, soft cream and grey woven fabrics along with engraved copper to relax the senses. The Suite has a leather style ottoman opposite to the seat which can also be used by a dining companion at meal times or as a foot rest.
Here is a little video tour of the cabin (the background tune I have used is I Got U from Duke Dumont feat. Jax Jones – I don’t own the rights to the song).
Each Suite has its own 48cm personal High Definition TV screen. There are two touchscreen controllers, one for the inflight entertainment and the other for lighting and seat presets.
An expansive wooden table for dining is located closer to the TV screen (which you can see in use below in the Dinner section) and a smaller tray table (which is a permanent fixture and is used for the introductory drinks as shown below).
I am quite impressed by the product and it certainy has a luxe feel to it without the overt ostentatiousness often seen in some suites.
As soon as I am seated, I am offered a glass of Champagne – it’s the Krug Grand Cuvee with some croutons and a hot towel to start the flight. Later some dates and Arabic coffee were served to complete the pre-flight service.
I have tried the Krug before and in fact reviewed from a dinner I had at Le Bernardin (New York) earlier this year. The wine has wonderful zest, structure and acid. The flavours of citrus fruits are complemented with notes of apples, toasted nuts, candied fruit and brioche with even a touch of spice which flows into the finish. A very refreshing drink to start.
Amenity Kit and Pyjamas
I am provided with a Giorgio Armani Amenity Kit which contains a range of cologne, lotions and shampoo and the most gorgeous plush Missoni pyjamas are also provided for the night ahead. I must say their approach to the amenities is pretty luxe with some big name brands being chosen.
The bathroom is super spacious (there are two of them). It has plenty of space for storage of personal items when on changes, there are sensor operated taps, beautiful selection of toiletries provided by Rituals, comfortable leather seating. It has a dim lighting, similar to a day spa kinda of ambiance (and similar in some ways to the mood of the Qantas First Spa in Sydney actually).
The menu is quite extensive as you will see with the perfect dine on demand service which is starting to become the norm in First Class. Here is the full menu:
For dinner, I opt for the following:
Oscietra Caviar with a full selection of accompaniments (grated egg, onion and cream) and blinis and melba toast
The richness and fresh pure salinity of the caviar is a pure treat. It has lovely distinct flavour which leaves and immediate impression. The blinis are soft and pillowy and are a lovely support act to the caviar, I could almost ignore the rest of the accompaniments as the true focus of the dish is the caviar and it shines like no other. I pair the dish with the Krug Grand Cuvee. The Krug proves the perfect tango partner to this dish.
Grilled Fillet of Australian Beef with Thyme Jus, Truffled Mash Potato, Heirloom Carrots and Balsamic Braised Shallots.
I skip the more exotic options on the menu and go with the steak & veg… where is my adventurous palate when I need it. The steak is cooked well (a bit too well done for my liking), it’s nothing brilliant but proves a nice staple main course. It has the beef’s natural juices and flavours intact, the herb touch of the thyme which is intermingled with the strength of the truffled mash. The carrots and shallots are nicely done and it makes for a hearty dining experience.
I change wine pairing opting for the: Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint Julien, 2nd Grand Cru Classe, 2008, Bordeaux, France.
The wine’s tasting notes are spot on and reflect the experience tonight. The wine does have good blackcurrant, herbs and espresso aromas. On the palate it is typical Bordeaux, the dense fruit of blackberries and cherries, hints of earth and mocha notes. It is a full-bodied wine with wonderful tannins which are perfect for the beef filet.
Chocolate and Raspberry Dessert with Crème Anglaise
The dessert is quite rich and I actually do not eat all of it. The white chocolate, crème anglaise and raspberry mousse were all probably too heavy and needed some lighter ingredients to provide a more balanced dessert.
For the long night’s sleep ahead the Suite turns into a bed. There is a beautiful duvet and purple quilt covering placed on the seat. The purple gives the bed a luxe feel and the bed is quite comfortable. I drift off to sleep immediately, only to awoken in regular intervals with turbulence which seems so common on all my trips from Sydney to the Middle East.
Here is a short video of the host making my bed (the background tune I have used is Wake Me Up from Avicii – I don’t own the rights to the song).
On-board Bar / Lounge
There are technically two bars in the cabin. The first bar is in the front of the First Class cabin. It is nothing to write home about, it is more a shelf of chips, salted nuts and non-alcoholic drinks with a selection of reading material.
The main on-board bar is at the back of the Business Cabin, so you do have to walk some distance.
The bar is aesthetically pleasing with a wonderful chandelier, the glow of the lighting, plush cream leather seats, and a beautiful wooden bar top adorned with some light snacks. The shelf at the back of the bar is stocked with a good selection of spirits (to make cocktails) and wines. On the downside, the wines are the business class wines and some of the premium drops which are on the First Class Menu are not stocked here, so you do trade down when you head to the bar.
I sit down and relax as the plane floats at 30,000 ft, sipping a lovely Bordeaux red as I ponder the trip ahead and all the exciting places I will be visiting. There is something about being at a bar in the sky that is so alluring…. not sure what it is, but I love the feel.
Eventually I am awoken for breakfast and this is what I choose:
Buttermilk Pancakes with Caramelised Bananas and Walnuts
The buttermilk pancakes are lovely, they lack the structure that Qantas pancakes have, conversely however I do love them. They are thinner and less thick and batter-y (if that even is a word) and so I feel light and refreshed rather heavy after breakfast. The pancakes are well supported by the banana and walnuts; the textural contrast is perfect with the softness of the banana and crunch of the walnuts. The sweet smoky caramel overlay also works a treat.
We finally land in Doha, where I am about to transit through to Paris. For an extra touch Qatar have provided an assistant to escort me to the lounge immediately after I disembark and then from the lounge to the gate for my next flight. That’s quality service.
All airlines differ in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of their First Class product, I have to say Qatar have an amazing First Class product and their Suite (“hard product”) would be my favourite first class suite of all the carriers I have flown with.
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